Dab of Honey
She clutched her handbag to her chest like it was a frightened cat. A plonging kerplank sounded from the floor and she squeezed too hard, breaking the clasp and sending cosmetics, change, sanitary napkins, and a TV Guide out through the top flap like dough from a tube of biscuits. The glass door opened. She squeaked, and then a reassuring hand was on her shoulder.
“All done. Let me help you.”
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I’ve never been in any kind of laboratory before.”
“It’s all very routine,” said the short man with the mustache, “The airlock just ensures you aren’t bringing in any strange pathogens. We have some delicate concoctions brewing in here, and we’ve had more than one experiment ruined by outside chemical agents accidentally contaminating our supplies.”
The short man with the mustache took her purse from her and then carefully put her things back into it. As he lifted each item, his nose seemed to jump as the nostrils flared on either side of his ghastly proboscis. The thing was a monster. Each pore was like the drain in the bathtub of a truck stop motel. If you squeezed it, you would get a handful of blackheads like ricotta porcupine quills. Maybe he didn’t have a mustache at all…just petrified danglers.
“I’m sorry,” she said, staring, “but I didn’t get your name.”
“I’m Dr. Trepid. And the quiet fellow is Dr. Lincoln.”
The one called Dr. Lincoln was hugging his elbows, a dopy grin on his face. He was cock-eyed, and had the kind of stringy yellow hair that let you see the red streaks of his scalp where he parted it. It was quite possible he had never seen a woman this close before. She pooched her hips out and let him see the top line of her garters. His chin visibly dropped.
“Hi,” said Dr. Lincoln to her breasts, “I’m in charge of fruits and whites.”
“Of course you are,” she said.
“Dr. Trepid does browns. Both sweets and savories.”
“Wow,” she said, smoothing her skirt back down.
“You know: chocolate, caramel, butterscotch. Meats and potatoes. The hard stuff.”
“Of course. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, holding out her hand, “I’m Honey.” She looked at the watch that dangled from the charm bracelet on the underside of her wrist. “So. Do you want me to do you both at the same time, or one after another?”
The two men exchanged nervous glances. Dr. Lincoln got very red in the face and then put his hand over his mouth, stopping a giggle.
“Because it doesn’t matter to me,” said Honey, “But, either way, I’m supposed to get the money up front.”
Finally, Dr. Trepid took her hand and shook it. Briskly.
“No problem at all, Honey. We understand completely. The girl on the phone spoke too quickly for me -- my Spanish is atrocious, you see – so I wasn’t quite sure how much it was going to cost. I’m amazed that she got that I wanted an American. I was afraid we’d have to send you back.”
“I’m not an American anymore,” said Honey, sizing them up, “But it’s gonna be five hundred American dollars an hour. Up front, EVERY HOUR, or I’m out of here.”
“Naturally,” said Dr. Trepid, reaching into his lab coat. He pulled out a thick money clip and counted five hundred dollar bills into his hand. The wad didn’t even lose a belt loop.
“This should be sufficient. Just let me know when you need more,” said Dr. Trepid, handing her the stack.
She could get used to this, she thought.
“Alright. Let’s go, then. You’re first, Snowflake,” said Honey to Dr. Lincoln.
Dr. Lincoln gulped.
“Wouldn’t you like to see the rest of the lab?” asked Dr. Trepid, stepping in, “I mean, you just got here. We have all night. Maybe you’d even like a bite to eat?”
“Aren’t you even the least bit curious what it is that we do here?”
“Not really,” said Honey, “Maybe a little bit. There’s government scientists all up and down the border. Most of them don’t order out for call-girls though, I’ll admit. Some do. I once did a birthday party for some NASA guys over in San Cristobel. But it was in a hotel.”
“I would think a girl like you gets a lot of business,” said Dr. Trepid.
“I get enough,” said Honey, “I suppose you are going to want me to sign something saying this never happened, right? So you don’t get investigated by some congressional subcommittee.”
“We don’t work for the government,” said Dr. Lincoln, proudly. “We are Flavorists.”
“What’s a Flavorist?” she asked.
“We make flavor,” said Dr. Lincoln. “We make things taste.”
Honey stared at him blankly.
“It’s a really important job,” said Dr. Lincoln. “You just wouldn’t believe.”
This was going to be about as interesting as reading the back of a shampoo bottle. She could already tell. Some guys got off on impressing women more than they did giving them the old epileptic unicorn ride. But Honey had yet to meet a man who was as impressive as a new pair of pumps. She pulled out a compact and put on some lipstick.
“Are you gonna fuck me or not?” she asked after a full minute of silence.
Dr. Trepid and Dr. Lincoln looked at each other nervously again.
“It’s complicated,” said Dr. Trepid, “Perhaps you’d like to see the rest of the lab.”
“It’s easier to explain with examples,” said Dr. Trepid, “Please. Follow me.”
Dr. Trepid pressed a button on the aluminum desk in the corner. A door swished open along one wall and Drs. Trepid and Lincoln scooted through, lab coats swishing. Honey applied more lipstick, smacked her mouth together to even it out, and then followed. What else was she going to do?
The halls were dark and quiet, and seemed to go on forever. It looked like there must be a sizable staff during the day. They passed locked door after locked door, all with brass panels affixed to the front and etched with the names of food items. Giblet Gravy, Suckling Duck, Crème de Menthe, Fresh Tomatoes, Applesauce, Pepperoni. Actual products – ones she recognized from the grocery store – were on some of them. Speedy Demon’s Microwave Pizza Nuggets, for instance. She’d been eating those for years.
There was a whole hallway dedicated to toothpaste and cough medicine; another room said “Envelope Adhesive.” There was dust on the handle of that one. She put her hand on the knob as they passed, but it didn’t turn.
“We’ve given up,” said Dr. Lincoln with a wink.
“So you guys make all this stuff?”
“We make the flavor,” said Dr. Trepid, “We make it better, faster, and more pure.”
“It’s the smallest ingredient in everything nowadays,” said Dr. Lincoln, “Only measured in parts per million. Always last on an ingredients list, and we don’t even have to say what’s in it. A single drop of coconut extract, for instance, is enough to flavor a swimming pool.”
“Doesn’t food already have a flavor?”
“People expect consistency,” said Dr. Trepid. “They demand it. Even hippies want every organic vegan quiche to taste the same. Good flavor makes this possible. Hippies usually buy things with natural flavors, though. Natural flavor comes from natural ingredients and artificial flavor comes from chemicals. Operationally, however, there isn’t much of a difference, to tell you the truth.”
“Naturally,” said Honey.
Dr. Trepid turned left and stopped in front of a door marked “Research and Development.” There was something strange about the air in this place. Honey couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Here we are,” said Dr. Trepid, stepping inside with a theatrical flourish, “This is where the magic happens.
The room wasn’t very big. It felt like the interior of a passenger jet: one long hallway with little cubicles evenly spaced along the side. At the far end, next to a hulking machine with see-through panels, was a small kitchen and a table with a white tablecloth rakishly strewn over it; the kind you would find at a French bistro. There was a single red candle melted over an empty bottle of wine burning in the center.
In each cubicle were rows and rows of what looked to be hydrogen peroxide. At least, everything was in the same brown bottles you’d buy at the drugstore. When Honey looked closer, she could see that they were labeled with long chemical names she couldn’t pronounce and didn’t care to try. Not all of them. One said “Taragon.” Another said “Salmon Roe.” There must have been a million of them.
Dr. Trepid picked one up. Curiously, it said “New Oldsmobile.” He opened it and gently brought the cap (which had a built in eye-dropper) up to his snout. His nose wriggled like a jellyfish impaled on a steak knife. He closed his eyes and let out a moan of ecstasy.
“The FDA has approved 3,000 chemicals for the production of flavor for United States markets,” said Dr. Trepid with his eyes closed. They fluttered open and he replaced the cap on the bottle. “What you see here are samples of each of them, divided up into tone and complexity. These are our tools. Our notes. There are other people who work here -- hammering out unimportant details and dealing with representatives from various food companies -- but Dr. Lincoln and I are responsible for the real work. We compose flavor. It is simultaneously the hardest, most thankless, and obscure job to which an artist can aspire.”
“He flatters me,” said Dr. Lincoln, looking at the floor. “He’s the real genius. I’m just an assistant, really.”
“Don’t denigrate yourself,” said Dr. Trepid. “This was your idea, and it’s a damn good one. I have a feeling it’s going to work.”
“What was your idea?” asked Honey.
Dr. Lincoln shuffled and balked.
“Flavor is a misleading term,” continued Dr. Trepid. “90% of flavor is composed of smell, and a significant percentage of its power comes from the texture and composition of the food to which it is applied. Subsequently, we mainly deal in smells here, and how they translate to the tongue.”
With long, tapered fingers, Dr. Trepid selected a brown bottle and uncapped it. He held the dropper out to Honey. She leaned forward and sniffed.
It smelled just like Maraschino cherries soaked in whiskey. Her mouth watered and she could almost feel the swizzle stick on her tongue as she gulped down a whiskey sour.
When he took the dropper away, she suddenly realized what was strange about the air in here. It had no smell. None at all. Not even the indelible trace of human dander. Honey realized that she had never smelled NOTHING before. She found it quite refreshing and wondered how they did it.
“What’s that machine do? Does it take the smell away?” asked Honey, pointing with her pinkie to the steel monstrosity in the corner.
“Quite a nose. Very few people can smell a clean staff. But no, scrubbers in the vents take care of that. What you are looking at, my dear, is a gas chromatograph. It allows us to determine the chemical substance of any fragrance in order to duplicate it. It is why we are here in Mexico, chasing a dream, instead of back in New Jersey with the rest of the fold, laboring away for the corporate teat. 3,000 notes are not nearly enough to make opera. Not by a long shot.”
“What do you mean?”
“The reason why the two of us have left the safety of the American empire and are living on the wrong side of this dingy border town is because we are engaged in a quest of mythic proportions. We are making perfect flavor,” said Dr. Trepid.
“Have a seat,” said Dr. Lincoln, lighting the candle on the table and putting on a pair of oven mitts that looked to be made out of Mylar. “I’ll make you something I think you’ll like.”
Honey unstrung her purse and sat down. She crossed her legs demurely. Surely they would be getting around to a blowjob soon. Surely.
“Perfect flavor is not the subjective quality to which other artists are held. If you’ll notice, we have significantly more than 3,000 bottles here. We demand an excellence that will transcend the current idiocy of consensus expectation. We make flavor for a future beyond queasiness. The common consumer doesn’t have the appetite for excellence and leans on the government to rob them of their right to taste. We are manufacturing for a time when demand and need overrun the ingrained human instinct to gag at repulsion.
Perfect flavor, you see, is flavor that can be no better. It is flavor that reaches beyond actuality and delves into structures in the brain that create fantastic expectations that are rarely satisfied by even the choicest specimens of their attendant tastes. It is water in the desert. The pastry behind glass. And, until now, it has been impossible. The world is too dark and terrible for what it desires.”
“It’s not all strife and gloom. We are making progress,” said Dr. Lincoln, leaning over what looked to be an industrial stove. He was stirring something in a cast iron pot.
“Indeed we are,” said Dr. Trepid, “Our first success was new strawberry. Have you ever had a strawberry flavored lollipop or piece of candy?”
“It’s not my favorite,” said Honey, “But I’ve had strawberry popsicles before.”
“Then you understand the frustration. Strawberry flavor is complex. Not as complex as coffee or meat, but very tricky nonetheless. We weren’t satisfied with its current incarnation. It didn’t have the cool ripeness or the scratchiness on the roof the mouth that seeds and pits make. No fuzziness. No stem fragments. Strawberry flavor tasted more like the color pink than an actual strawberry. So we took a year and we went exploring. This was the kind of problem our laboratory was created for. A problem those limited to 3,000 paltry notes couldn’t solve.”
“We had to go to Ecuador,” said Dr. Lincoln, “It wasn’t cheap.”
“No, it was not,” said Dr. Trepid, “I lost my wife over it. But it was an investment and I had a hunch, you see. It’s a tired old cliché, but in this business one must always follow one’s nose. After several months of dead ends – investigating the eating habits of natives and trying to delve deeper and deeper into the rainforest based on spurious accounts of a flower that had the elusive pitch we were seeking – we came upon our triumph. It wasn’t a flower at all. It was Colyanthisis sinestra. The Left-turning Crimson Anther Maggot, a delightful little critter that lives inside pungent tropical blossoms and eats them while circumnavigating their rims with the eventual goal of turning into a Left-Spinning Crimson Anther Fly. When crushed, dried, and mixed with an infusion of mustard seed and ceiling mildew, there is no more perfect synthetic strawberry flavor. It tastes more like strawberries than strawberries do.”
“That’s when our battle began,” said Dr. Lincoln, removing his mitts, “This is nearly done. When do I add the lemon essence?”
“Give it another minute-and-a-half,” said Dr. Trepid.
“Are you trying to tell me that there are crushed up maggots inside strawberry popsicles?” said Honey. She wasn’t sure if they were putting her on or not. She was disgusted, but she had lost her gag reflex a LONG time ago.
“Not until this past year,” said Dr. Trepid, “The FDA wouldn’t have it. Even though the amount of Colyanthisis in any given sample of flavoring was microscopic, they were childishly paranoid about the repercussions if anyone was to discover what they were feeding their constituent’s children. But there are other markets. China and Japan bought our flavor almost immediately. France went next, and suddenly French candy companies were eating into the American share because of STRAWBERRY, for God’s sake. The little flavor no one liked. A black market started in gourmet restaurants along the Eastern seaboard, which I’m sure we had nothing to do with.”
He gave her a sly grin. Ho ho ho, what a dandy rogue am I. With his nose and mustache, he looked exactly like a cartoon mole rat. Honey giggled.
“Eventually, the FDA had to cave. The pressure from the National Association of Pastry Chefs and Candy Distributors was too much. There was a bit of unpleasantness from Sweetytang, LTD because they didn’t have the money to make the switch, but they lost their credibility after a bad batch of Sweetytang Tarts killed some children last Halloween. Now all strawberry products are made from new strawberry derivatives and we basically have the market locked. No one knows about Colyanthisis, and no one cares. As a result, a series of extremely lucrative contracts has allowed us to move into other ventures.”
Dr. Lincoln bustled over with something fluffy and yellow in a crystal goblet. In his other hand was a spoon. He set them both down in front of Honey and then practically leapt out of the way like a fretful waiter.
“Give it a try,” he said, “It’s a mousse made out of new butterscotch. We’ve yet to release it to the public.”
Honey stared at it.
“Fish guts and baby poop,” she said, “No thanks.”
“Not all of our products are flavored with conventionally repellent additives,” said Dr. Trepid. “New butterscotch is one of my favorites. It’s pure inspiration.”
He reached into his jacket and pulled out his money clip. He started counting.
“Here’s two thousand dollars,” said Dr. Trepid. “All you have to do is take one bite. If you don’t like it, you can walk out of here: no questions asked. If it isn’t the most wonderful thing you’ve ever eaten, the money is yours. I’m willing to bet that not only will you love it, you’ll love it so much you’ll turn the money down just to finish the bowl.”
“It’s not drugged or anything, is it?” asked Honey dubiously. “Because that would be ridiculous. When you pay a call girl, you pay for a sure thing, and there’s nothing I won’t do willingly.”
“No, it isn’t drugged,” said Dr. Trepid, sitting down across from her. “You have my word as a scientist.”
“I WILL take your two thousand dollars if it tastes like shit, too. Don’t think I won’t. If you think it’s funny to hire call girls and make them eat shit, I think it’s pretty funny to take your money and then have some guys come over here and break your arms.”
Dr. Lincoln leaned over, grabbed the spoon, and took a big heaping bite.
“See?” said Dr. Trepid.
“Marvelous,” said Dr. Lincoln dreamily, “Just marvelous.”
Honey took the spoon from an insensate Dr. Lincoln and used its edge to nudge a dollop into its basin. She brought it to her nose and sniffed. Her toes tingled. It smelled…well…perfect. Rich and creamy, with just a hint of freshly baked bread. Sweet, but not sentimental. Like Grandpa’s aftershave.
She put the spoon in her mouth.
Never before in her life had she tasted anything so absolutely awesome. It was like diving into a whirlpool of fresh creamery butter, being sucked down into the center, and finding that at its heart was a bright golden sun that blazed only for her and had the sweetest light a soul could feel. Pulsations from her mouth rippled down her body and made every hair stand on end and sing John Lennon songs. Her tongue lifted from its foundation and flipped like an orca reaching for the moon. The skin between her toes relaxed into flesh jelly and her shoes fell off. She realized that she had never actually tasted butterscotch before: merely shoddy kindergarten renditions of this unbelievable ideal. For a split second, she thought she might faint.
And the aftertaste? She didn’t wait for the aftertaste. Before she realized it, she had finished the entire cup and was licking out the inside like it was J. P. Morgan’s asshole and she was being paid by the link.
“My God,” she said, eventually regaining her composure. “This should be illegal.”
“Well, technically, it is,” said Dr. Trepid.
“You are going to make a billion dollars. What’s in it?” she asked.
“Carrot essence, lemon essence, Styrene, Wasabi, cordovan, oleander, ferret scrapings, margarine, peat, barrel grease, nutmeg, taro, refined sauerkraut, maltodextrin, and banana yoghurt. We figured that last one out by accident. The formula only tasted right just after I’d finished my mid-morning snack.”
“What’s refined sauerkraut?”
Dr. Lincoln coughed. “The body removes certain impurities in sauerkraut during its first digestion. It’s a whole different substance afterward. A whole different smell.”
“So you see,” said Dr. Trepid, “These notes aren’t anything you couldn’t find laying around your house. The tricky part is making them sing. In the case of new butterscotch, there is some difficulty due to the fact that ingredients must be added in stages. This is only a logistical problem, though. We are already experimenting with time-release crystals for the lemon essence and peat.”
“It’s amazing. How do you do this?” asked Honey.
“I am simply one of those fortunate people who never stopped putting things they shouldn’t in their mouth. With the absolute freedom to create, each day we make something spectacular here. And the blatantly unpalatable items won’t be illegal forever. We already have a deal with Ludoviccio’s in San Francisco for truffles using new butterscotch. They don’t care what’s in it: they just want to sell it.”
“You’ve convinced me. You are crazy as hell, but you make magic. So why am I here?” asked Honey, “What do you want from me?”
“Get the bottle and some towels,” said Dr. Trepid. Dr. Lincoln nodded deferentially and left.
“As you may have already figured out, we didn’t ask you to come here because we want to have sex with you. We asked you to come here because we need something from you. Something for which we are willing to pay top dollar. Something only you can provide.”
Honey casually picked up the two grand and stuck it in her bra.
“This is for listening to whatever else you are going to say,” said Honey, “Go on.”
“Fine. Take it. You stand to make a whole lot more.”
“I didn’t say I was leaving,” said Honey.
Dr. Trepid nodded.
“Right now, we are deep in the composition of what promises to be our crowning achievement. My masterpiece. A flavor I have been studying and dreaming about for my entire career. It will change the market, and it will change the world.”
He licked his lips.
He let the words sink in, and then he started pacing.
“Chocolate, though insidiously simple, is the hardest flavor in the world to master. Since the death of Abraham Toblerone in 1937, Flavorists have given up even working on it. It has driven many an obsessed flavor magnate to an early grave and haunted entire corporations with its promise of infinite wealth. Hubert Nelson Hershey called it “the ugly brown bitch that stole my wallet and heart and never let me rest long enough to cut out my tongue and move on.” There’s just no figuring it. It twists; it turns. One bite can taste like the richest, strongest, most luxurious dainty in the world – and the next can taste like burnt chalk soaked in dishwater. I spent my thirties canvassing the cocoa fields of South America, literally traveling from tree to tree and making notes. I spent my forties building an empire that would allow me the freedom to follow my heart and live for a goal that would not die. And I have spent my fifties striving. Tasting. Smelling. Thinking. Doing the work, and doing the math. And now I know what they don’t know. I know what has driven so many brave, good Flavorists insane with torment and rage, and I know what could have saved them. They say chocolate is impossible. Peaked. That it is a fool’s dream, and a dead end. They say milk and powder is the best we can do, and the best we’ll ever be able to do.”
His nose twitched. He seemed to gaze off into an impenetrable middle distance. Suddenly, he made a fist and banged it down on the table hard enough to knock the crystal goblet onto the tile floor and shatter it into vapor. The spoon bounced into a table leg and caromed across the lab. He didn’t even flinch.
“And I say balls to them! They just don’t have the courage. Never did. New chocolate may be the Flavorist’s Philosopher’s Stone, but I have cracked it. Oh yes. At the conference in Stockholm next year, it will be Aksel Trepid who takes away the Golden Bud. It will make me immortal, and more importantly, if you help me, it will make you immortal. They say it can’t be done. But I know now what it needs. I have all of the other ingredients: the cork, and the mango rind, and the tin foil. There was just one final touch. One final note. And tonight I figured it out. It’s just a matter of grasping it. Seizing it. Putting my big fat tongue around it, and SWALLOWING IT WHOLE!”
“You are crazy, aren’t you?” said Honey. She stood up. Dr. Trepid grabbed her wrist.
“Please. You can’t leave. I have suffered…I have suffered for years now…but I know EXACTLY what I have been missing. It was at eleven o’clock tonight that I realized with the sudden catastrophe of recognition what was wrong with my formula, a formula I have been working on for longer than you have been alive. I told Dr. Lincoln -- I shouted it to the heavens in triumph and despair -- and Dr. Lincoln gave me the number for your service.”
He pressed the entire wad of cash into her hand. Tears ran down his cheeks.
“This is fifty thousand dollars. It is so simple. All I need is a single flavor, a single smell, and the symphony will be perfect.”
His eyes locked onto hers like prison searchlights.
“I need the smell of a beautiful woman’s moist vagina in the dead of night in Mexico. The true smell of romance.”
Dr. Lincoln walked back in and gasped. Dr. Trepid let her go.
“Dr. Trepid! She must be willing, you said!”
“I’m sorry,” he said, his face falling, “I’m so sorry.” He fell to his knees and blew his nose into a massive handkerchief. It sounded like a foghorn. He tried to stand and instead slipped on broken glass. Dr. Lincoln bent to help him.
“No,” said Honey, sitting back down. “I’m sorry. You aren’t crazy at all.”
Honey thought about it. Someone would do it eventually. It might as well be her. Imagine! All those people. Each one tasting a dab of Honey. Tasting perfection. She shivered.
“I’ll do it. Of course I’ll do it.”
Dr. Lincoln and Dr. Trepid stared at her. Dr. Trepid began to laugh.
“You will? You will seriously do this for me?”
“If you can make perfect chocolate, I’ll give you my own blood.”
“Whatever you need,” said Dr. Trepid. “We have tapes, toys, anything. We’ll be glad to help out in any way we can.”
“I’m a professional,” said Honey, “I don’t think I’ll need any tapes or…um…help. But…hmmmm…if you REALLY want a good sample…”
“Yes?” asked Dr. Trepid. He leaned forward, his fingers scraping her knee. “It’s been awhile for me. But we’ll do anything it takes. It’s true what they say about men with big noses, you know…”
“Do you have any more of that mousse?” asked Honey, stopping him before he was completely in her lap.
“Of course,” said Dr. Trepid, laughing. “Of course.”
There was a snapping noise behind her. Cold steel suddenly bound her wrists. She tried to stand, but she realized that she had been handcuffed to her chair. And the chair was bolted to the floor. The bolts looked new and tight.
“What are you doing?” asked Honey.
“Don’t worry: the deal still stands. Fifty thousand dollars for an adequate production sample. This is really more for your protection,” said Dr. Trepid. “Could I have the bottle please, Dr. Lincoln? And could you clean up all of this glass and make me another batch of butterscotch mousse?”
“What are you talking about? My protection?”
“We don’t want you trying to escape when it becomes unbearable. Then we’d have to knock you out, and nobody wants that.”
Dr. Lincoln opened a supply cabinet and took out what looked like a homemade sump pump. There was an attachment at one end that looked like a sponge in a plastic jockstrap. It was ribbed.
“Wait,” said Honey, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m not willing anymore.”
“It’s too late, I’m afraid. You’re just saying that because you’re scared,” said Dr. Trepid. “You’ll be fine. You have flavor in your soul. This is going to be wonderful.”
Dr. Lincoln handed Dr. Trepid what looked to be a gallon pickle jar with the label removed. Dr. Trepid set it down in front of her.
“Consistency is important, you see,” said Dr. Trepid, “You are definitely the right girl for the job and we don’t want to have to do this again with someone else. So we are going to need a rather large amount. We could insist that you come back every week, but what’s to keep you from fleeing the country when we need you most? We’d prefer to get our gallon all at once. That should be enough for the next ten years or so, and by then, who knows where we’ll be?”
“Please, don’t do this. Can’t you just take a little bit and then replicate it?”
“Oh, Honey,” said Dr. Trepid, beaming, “How would we do that? You’re one of a kind.”
He gave her a kiss on the cheek. His cheeks were moist. He had started weeping again. From joy, no doubt. She felt sick to her stomach.
“Dr. Lincoln assures me he has some experience with this, so I’ll leave you to it. He even says the suction device he has constructed won’t leave any lasting damage.”
Dr. Lincoln nodded, snapping on a pair of latex gloves.
“We have as long as it takes, so go at your own pace. We can’t thank you enough, and I’m sure I don’t have to warn you about what might happen to you if later you decide someone else needs to know about our little arrangement. We’d much rather pay you than a hitman, but we have no problem doing both. Just keep thinking about the chocolate. The perfect chocolate. Remember: pain is temporary, but flavor is forever!”